Pope Francis continues to send seismic shock waves across the globe with his liberal-leaning pronouncements. And they are the most affirmative remarks the world has ever heard on the dicey subjects of abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage.
”We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” Pope Francis stated last week in wide-ranging interview with 16 Jesuit publications.
However, for many religious conservatives the Pontiff’s remarks are heretical, and they vehemently contested that Pope Frances has not only desecrated century-old church doctrine, but also that he has diminished his authority as the head of the church.
But as the Pontiff aptly stated in his interview ”the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards” should the Catholic Church, in this 21st Century, continue on it anti-modernity trek like his predecessor. Pope Benedict XVI, a.k.a. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, used his authoritarian and “Rottweiler” persona of church doctrine to maintain an ecclesiastical lockdown and exclusion.
While Pope Frances’ more liberal-leaning views on these topics might not ever be a non-issue in the Catholic Church, he does suggest that ”when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.” And in looking at gay priests within the historical context of the Catholic Church the Pontiff knows that gay priests have always been around.
His views on gay priests, while not quite in lockstep with its Catholic LGBTQ parishioners and allies, have, nonetheless, moved the farthest of any pontiff in history. Also, while some LGBTQ Catholics applaud Pope Francis queer-friendly remarks, there are many others who are suspect of them and don’t feel the Pontiff’s pronouncements are inclusive.
”The Pope was not speaking of all homosexuals, only to those of the cloth,” AmberXIII commented on The New Yorker blog. And AmberXIII might be right, but, gay men of the cloth in the Vatican are nothing new for the Pontiff.
As a matter of fact, gay priests have always been part and parcel of the life and operations of the Vatican as well as the Catholic Church for centuries. Their strength to come out now as a formidable force within the hallow walls of the Vatican is laudable on the one hand and a liability on the other hand, especially in terms of casting a gay suspicion on all priests as well as the potential to expose those priests who want to remain in the closet.
Pope Francis knows this, which is one of the reasons he has commented disapprovingly about the political and activist clout the powerful ”gay lobby” has in the Curia, the Vatican’s secretive administration. “The problem is not having this orientation. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worst problem… Being gay is a tendency. The problem is the lobby,” the Italian news agency ANSA quoted Pope Frances saying at a press conference during his trip to Brazil in July.
Supporters and activists of the ”gay lobby” in the Curia emphatically state that this brave and visible group is essential to the running of the Vatican as well as protecting themselves from the church’s hypocrisy in scapegoating them for many of the social ills of the church. For example, in the not-too-distant past, gay priests were the easy solution and the fall guy to tamp down the nation’s rage as a way to explain away the church’s decades-long pedophilic problem.
And being the homophobe that he unabashedly is, in 2005 Pope Benedict XVI signed a document stating that men with deep-rooted same-gender loving tendencies should not be priests. But the reality here is that as quietly as the Church has tried to keep it, the Catholic Church is a gay institution. And that is not a bad thing!
The problem in the Catholic Church is not its gay priests, and its solution to the problem is not the removal of them. The problem in the Catholic Church is its transgressions against gay priests.
And I ask: Who will remove the church from itself? And Pope Francis knows this as well. For Pope Francis the gay lobby within the Vatican is a problem, not the gay priests, if celibate!
Flying home after a weeklong visit to Brazil, the Pontiff was queried about the much talked about ”gay lobby” in the Vatican. “When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem… They’re our brothers.”
In moving forward, Pope Francis embraces an acceptance of gay priests and wants the church to as well.
Rev. Irene Monroe is a Huffington Post blogger and freelance journalist.